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Fried main breaker and SEC - Crappy repair?

Kyle Kubs

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Opened up an old Murray panel the other day. Found the SEC as you see it missing the insulation because it baked so bad it just fell off. Looking at the side of the breaker it was obvious there was an issue. I went up to get the home owner to show him what his family would be going to sleep with that night and he was on the phone to an electrician a minute later. His agent stopped him and reminded him he now had one of those "home warranty" insurance deals and called them to have them send out an electrician. When I mumbled something about a warranty service electrician not being of the highest caliber, especially for repair like this, she just said, "but if he's a licensed electrician then what's the difference?"

I had to go back yesterday to pick up the Radon monitor and the client having been notified that it was repaired, asked me to take a look at it while I was there. I had told him the SEC up to the meter would have to be replaced with the breaker of course and expected to find it that way. I was a little surprised to see they replaced the breaker and just trimmed a little off the end of the SEC, wrapped it with high voltage tape and left it in place.

You can see in a couple of the pictures the discoloration on the conductors above the main breaker and even the top of the enclosure, I can't imagine the insulation a foot out from the main breaker isn't damaged. I wouldn't in a million years do work like that but I have to remind myself that my way of doing things isn't a standard I can hold others too... So, is there any "standard" or requirement for repair from this kind of damage? I can't tell my client I feel it's been repaired properly.

Opine away.

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I think the important issue would be to determine what caused that fry-up. Did the main breaker short out on its own? A more likely possibility, the total house load exceeded the main breaker rating, the breaker failed to trip, so it fried itself and the SEC's.

So swapping in a new breaker and wrapping on a bit of tape may not be solving the issue of an overloaded antique service. I don't know, but that is the question that needs to be answered.

An electrician could do a load calculation, make sure all the branch circuit breakers will trip if they need to, and repair those SEC's properly.

But a complete service upgrade and a new breaker panel would be the best fix for that mess, IMO.

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Yeah, loose connection but it may have arced after the overheat as suggested by the white residue at the top. I may have put a little more tape than that, otherwise if the breaker is listed for aluminum and a load calculation revealed 100 amp to be adequate for the loads present, I'd not say anything more.

From the get-go I would have recommended a new panel instead of just the breaker (based on age) but maybe that's what you did.


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I guess I could have explained myself a little better. I don't have an issue with the tape in and of itself. I've used it many times to wrap split bolts on service mains at the weather head. It does it's job as it was intended. Chad I like the shrink tube idea though. Jim, I think your the only one that can get away with calling you a hack on any terms.

I just have a hard time believing that the next several inches of the insulation isn't as brittle as Ritz crackers from the heat. The pieces that had fallen off were completely charred. One had fallen off and broke into several pieces when hitting the floor. I could hardly pick it up without it breaking into dust. I guess I'm less comfortable with it because I'm stuck in the inspector role and not the one who pulled the breaker, got to see what was going on inside & behind it and didn't have my hands on that cable to judge the pliability of the insulation. But, that's why I came here, you guys make a good sounding board to temper my anal retentiveness. (Almost sounds dirty or something...)

I seriously doubt the damage was the result of overloading the service level. Even if the main breaker didn't trip (not unheard of with the Murrays), it probably would have had to overload by another 40 0r 50 amps to create that much heat & damage. The house has a gas water heater, stove/oven. The clothes dryer was electric and though it had central A/C it was only drawing 12 amps on cruise. I tend to doubt it's pushing the limit at 100 amps.

My first thought was a loose connection also and yah, the breaker looks like it had been arcing. I did call it out to do a load calc. to make sure and told the client the best case scenario was to replace the panel but an electrician would need to find justification for that if he was going to get it on the sellers dime. Fat chance of that happening with the insurance company electrician though.

Neal, nice catch! It didn't even hit me, the breaker is on in the down position.

There was plenty of other imbecile work going on there so another electrician will be following.

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  • 3 weeks later...

Murray used to have a main breaker handle that was reverse of a "normal" model, it was shown in the OP's pics, but now that it has been replaced the "ON" position is down, meaning that it is now a violation of 240.81.

240.81 Indicating. Circuit breakers shall clearly indicate

whether they are in the open ?off? or closed ?on? position.

Where circuit breaker handles are operated vertically

rather than rotationally or horizontally, the ?up? position of

the handle shall be the ?on? position.

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